Michael Sinatra invited me to a “show and tell” workshop at the new Université de Montréal campus where they have a long data wall. Sinatra is the Director of CRIHN (Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur les humanitiés numériques) and kindly invited me to show what I am doing with Stéfan Sinclair and to see what others at CRIHN and in France are doing.
I volunteered for the first squirrel census in the city. Here’s what I learned, in a nutshell.
From Lauren Klein on Twitter I learned about a great New York Times article on There are 2,373 squirrels in Central Park. I know because I helped count them. The article is by Denise Lau (Jan. 8, 2020.) As Klein points out, it is about the messiness of data collection. (Note that she has a book coming out on Data Feminism with Catherine D’Ignazio.)
hug + hack = infinity
At one of the talks at CGSA 2019 I learned about WINDOWS93. It is an emulation of a non-existant early version of Windows that looks a bit like Windows 95, but has all sorts of joke applications in it.
This and other examples of interactive games that mimic everyday software was presented by Benjamin Unterman in a paper titled, “Games Imitating Life.” Unterman theorized that there are three types of such games:
- Realistic interface designs where a game pretends to be a real interface like that of a cell phone, but you end up messaging fictional people.
- Complicit designs use realistic interfaces to bring people into a satire or joke interactive. I think Windows93 would be such an example.
- Antagonistic designs pretend to be some productivity tool, but they subvert the interface as you play.
My conference notes for Congress 2019 are here.
A painting created using GANs (generative adversarial networks) sold for $432 000 at Christies today.
Last year a $432 000 painting “by AI” sold at Christie’s. The painting was created by a collective called Obvious. They used a Generative Adversarial Network. In an essay titled, A naive yet educated perspective on Art and Artificial Intelligence, they talk about how they created the work.
Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) analyze tens of thousands of images, learn from their features, and are trained with the aim to create new images that are undistinguishable from the original data source.
They also point out that many of the same concerns people have about AI art today were voiced about photography in the 19th century. Photography automated the image making business much as AIs are automating other tasks.
Can we use these GANs for other generative scholarship?
“…it’s like writing with a deranged but very well-read parrot on your shoulder.”
Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, has been doing some interesting work with recursive neural nets in order to generate text. See Writing with the machine. He trained a machine on science fiction and then hooked it into a text editor so it can complete sentences. The New York Times has a nice story on Sloan’s experiments, Computer Stories: A.I. Is Beginning to Assist Novelists.
One wonders what it would be like if you trained it on your own writing. Would it help you be yourself or discourage you from rereading your prose?
Eric Hayot at the Novel Worlds conference showed a slide with an image of Debbie Harry of Blondie painted on the Amiga by Andy Warhol. There is a video of Warhol painting on the Amiga at the premiere of the Commodore Amiga.
This is discussed in a documentary The Invisible Photograph: Part 2 (Trapped). The documentary also talks about recovering other images from Warhol’s original Amiga that was preserved by the The Andy Warhol Museum.
Technologizer has a nice retrospective on the Amiga, Amiga: 25 Years Later. I remember when it came out in 1985. I had a Mac by then, but was intrigued by the colour Amiga and the video work people were doing with it.
Ted Underwood in a talk at the Novel Worlds conference talked about a fascinating project, Every Noise at Once. This project has tried to map the genres of music so you can explore these by clicking and listening. You should, in theory, be able to tell the difference between “german techno” and “diva house” by listening. (I’m not musically literate enough to.)
I just came across a neat site called AI Weirdness. The site describes all sorts of “weird” experiments in learning neural networks. Some examples:
- Cat names like Colzyy, Mumhan and Tygrar
- Paint colours like Boo Snow and Sudden Pine
- Course titles like Genies and Engineering and Language of Circus Processing
The site has a nice FAQ that describes her tools and how to learn how to do it.
I just learned about a new project called EaaSI | The Software Preservation Network. Stanford will be one of the nodes. They are looking at how to provide emulation as a service. They are using technology from Freiburg called bwFLA Emulation as Service.
Emulation as a strategy for digital preservation is about to become an accepted technology for memory institutions as a method for coping a large variety of complex digital objects. Hence, the demand for ready-made and especially easy-to-use emulation services will grow. In order to provide user-friendly emulation services a scalable, distributed system model is required to be run on heterogeneous Grid or Cluster infrastructure.
The Emulation-as-a-Service architecture simplifies access to preserved digital assets allowing end users to interact with the original environments running on different emulators. Ready-made emulation components provide a flexible web service API allowing for development of individual and tailored digital preservation workflows.
Emulation is going to be important to game preservation. Already the Internet Archive is making games and other software available with emulation. There is also the MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) project that is a community project that has traditionally allowed people to play older games right from the bit sequence off cartridges.
One of the oddest Ethereum projects in operation, CryptoKitties is a three-way cross between Tamagotchis, Beanie Babies and animal husbandry. Users can buy, sell and breed the eponymous cats, with traits inherited down the generations.
The Guardian has a nice story on Missed the bitcoin boom? Five more baffling cryptocurrencies to blow your savings on. The article talks about CryptoKitties, a form of collectible pet (kitty) game that is built on blockchain technology. If you invest you get a kitty or two and then you can breed them to evolve new kitties. The kitties can then be sold as collectibles to others to breed. Apparently 11% of Traffic on the Ethereum Blockchain Is Being Used to Breed Digital Cats (CryptoKitties). If you missed investing in bitcoin, now is the change to buy a kitty or two.
The question is whether this is gambling or a game?